Forget the battles over plates and dishes or the classic vinyl records collection. The real war between couples when they split in divorce can be who gets the furry member of the family.
A new law signed this week by the governor aims to make custody disputes over pets in divorce cases a bit more humane.
Rather than treating pets the same as a piece of furniture, the law requires judges in divorce proceedings to consider the animals’ best interests when deciding which spouse gets custody, the Niagara Gazette reported.
The measure will help prevent pets from being used as “bargaining chips” in divorce negotiations, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, says.
“I think in the past pets were simply property,” Glick says. “But they are sentient beings, and on that basis they deserve some thoughtful consideration, and that is what the intention is.”
For example, judges could consider which spouse most often fed the animal, took the pet for veterinary care or spent the most time with it.
Lawmakers who supported the bill argued custody battles involving pets are not uncommon, Spectrum News reports. The new law signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul will help determine a clear path to resolving those disagreements.
California, Alaska and Illinois all have similar laws on the books.
New York’s new law takes effect immediately.